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Comcast considering usage limit for data downloads

Thu, 05/08/2008 - 8:30am
Brian Santo

Comcast is considering the idea of setting a usage limit on data downloads, beyond which subscribers would pay extra.

The catch, as such, is that the budget Comcast is considering offering its data customers – 250 gigabytes (GB) per month – is so enormous that the data service users believed to get anywhere near it number only in the tens of thousands.

Given that, the proposal must be aimed at so-called power users, people who are believed to be downloading scores of movies each month using peer-to-peer (P2P) techniques.

These are the users who consume so much bandwidth that Comcast explained it was compelled to employ the traffic management techniques that have got the MSO in such hot water in recent months.

The plan, brought to light by DSL Reports, is to charge users $15 for every 10 GB over the limit. Comcast is said to be preparing to initiate testing of the plan within the next few months. The cap of 250 GB per month is roughly equivalent to about 50 high-definition (HD) movies or more than 200 standard-definition (SD) films.

In the past, Comcast has had a relatively informal policy of contacting its power users, asking them to manage their own activities, for instance requesting that large downloads be scheduled for low-traffic periods in the small hours of the night. Comcast, like many other Internet service providers (ISPs), also lets them know that it reserves the right to cutoff service to subscribers whose usage it deems excessive.

The new policy would formalize Comcast’s approach, giving it a tool to rein in the small percentage of power users.

With Internet traffic continuing to grow at double-digit rates, ISPs have been reconsidering migrating from nominally unlimited plans to plans that meter usage.

Earlier this year, Time Warner Cable (TWC) announced that it will experiment with charging based on usage, in a test to be conducted in Beaumont, Texas (story here).

The TWC proposal is far stricter than Comcast’s. TWC plans to offer usage tiers of 5-, 10-, 20- or 40 gigabytes, with prices increasing. Subscribers who exceed their limits would be charged accordingly.

More Broadband Direct:

Cablevision adds basic subs in Q1, widens loss 

Comcast considering usage limit for data downloads 

Cable ops urge Congress for retransmission 'quiet period' around DTV transition 

Wilmington is FCC's lab rat for DTV switch 

RCN adds 11K RGUs in Q1 

SureWest ups residential RGUs by 119% in Q1 

SCTE Foundation releases Founding Donors list 

Broadband Briefs for 5/8/08

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